Biden tells Democrats to embrace more modest economic package

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden appeared to bow Friday to Sen. Joe Manchin’s demand for a lightened economic package, telling Democrats to push the measure through Congress quickly so families can “sleep easier” and enjoy the benefits. health care savings it offers.

Biden’s statement came hours after Manchin, the West Virginian who is one of the most conservative Democrats in Congress, said if party leaders wanted to pass a measure before next month’s recess, it should be limited to provisions limiting prescription drug prices, extending subsidies for people purchasing health insurance and reducing the federal deficit.

“Families across the country will sleep easier if Congress takes this action,” Biden said in a statement released by the White House. “The Senate should go ahead and pass it before the August recess and deliver it to my desk so I can sign it.”

He added: “This will not only reduce the cost of prescription drugs and health care for families, but will reduce the deficit and help fight inflation.”

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Manchin, whose vote is a necessity for Democrats to succeed, had also said that if party leaders wanted to pursue a broader measure to curb climate change and raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations, they should wait longer. late this summer. He argued it would allow time to see what happens to inflation and interest rates this month, a delay that would also push back scrutiny of the legislation until the weeks just before the election. of November and would jeopardize his fate.

In his statement, Biden said action on climate and clean energy “remains more urgent than ever,” but also acknowledged his willingness to accept, for now, delays in congressional action. .

“If the Senate does not act to address the climate crisis and strengthen our national clean energy industry, I will take strong executive action to respond at this time,” he said. His measures would create jobs, protect the country from rising fuel prices and protect the climate, he said, adding: “I will not back down: the opportunity to create jobs and build a clean energy future is too important to give up.”

Biden’s comments marked the latest retreat he and Democratic congressional leaders have made since they initially pushed for broader goals early last year that would have cost $3.5 trillion or more.

These priorities would also have provided free pre-kindergarten, low-cost child care, paid family leave and more. But they ultimately fell victim to Democrats’ narrow majorities in Congress and sweeping shifts in the political and economic climate that have seen voters express deep concerns over soaring inflation this year, including record oil prices. ‘essence.

The president’s options for executive or Environmental Protection Agency regulatory action could include denying permits for oil and gas drilling on federal lands and waters, tightening pollution authorized by coal-fired power plants and the restriction of gas pipelines and other fossil fuel projects.

Environmental advocates want him to go further and declare a national climate emergency that would invoke authorities to boost clean energy such as wind and solar power.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s previous story follows below.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats should delay President Joe Biden’s signature economic package until later this summer, Sen. Joe Manchin said Friday, a request that would jeopardize the party’s fiscal and environmental goals and stage a Congress’s risky showdown over the plan until dawn. November elections.

The pivotal West Virginia Democrat told a statewide radio show that if party leaders wanted to vote this month on the still-emerging measure, they would have to limit it to price-cap provisions pharmaceuticals, extending soon-to-expire federal health care subsidies and reducing federal deficits. .

While these are top Democratic priorities, it would mean excluding other priority goals they have long pursued under Biden. These include incentivizing a shift from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources and paying for its priorities by taxing the wealthiest Americans and corporations, both among the party’s deepest aspirations.

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Party leaders hoped to carry out these initiatives in time to present them to voters before an election in which Republicans could take control of Congress. Democrats are eager to show they are tackling this year’s steadily rising consumer costs, which polls show are voters’ top concern.

Manchin said Democrats should wait until July’s inflation numbers are available, which would happen in August. He also wants lawmakers to weigh the next steps the Federal Reserve will take on interest rates as it struggles to rein in rising prices while avoiding a recession.

“Let’s wait for this to come out to know that we’re on a path that won’t be incendiary to add more to inflation,” Manchin said on “Talkline,” a West Virginia radio show hosted by Hoppy Kercheval.

Manchin spoke a day after telling Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that he could not support a bill now that would include other party goals like tackling climate change and raising taxes on the wealthy and big business, according to a Democrat briefed on those talks.

The two lawmakers have been negotiating for months on a package that is expected to reach about $1 trillion over 10 years, about half of which is used to reduce federal deficits. While he has worried for months about rising inflation, his latest demands come days after the government said consumer costs rose last month to an annual rate of 9.1 %, the largest increase since 1981.

Support from Manchin, one of his party’s most conservative members of Congress, will make or break any measure Democrats can produce in an evenly divided Senate. The plan faces some unanimous opposition from Republicans, who argue that its spending and tax increases would further worsen inflation.

Manchin’s apparent rejection of climate action is a shocking setback for Biden’s ambitious environmental agenda. It includes freeing the electricity sector from global warming carbon gases by 2035 and halving global greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared to 2005 levels.

In a bid to win Manchin’s support, Democrats had cut their planned climate spending from $555 billion to just over $300 billion. He also forced Democrats to drop two provisions he opposes: giving tax credits to drivers who buy electric vehicles and making it easier for clean energy producers to collect tax breaks.

Asked about Manchin’s position, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Friday aboard Air Force One, “We’re just not going to negotiate in public.” She said Biden would use “every authority he has” to curb climate change.

Manchin said he considers his talks with Schumer “continuing.” Yet his latest stance has drawn a mixture of anger and pragmatism from his fellow Democrats, who are weighing whether to declare victory with a package reduced to Manchin’s outlines.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, told reporters she wasn’t sure what was left in her party’s proposal, but added, “I would be very, of course, disappointed if the whole planet saving thing was off the bill.” A spokesperson for Schumer did not immediately return requests for comment.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who leads the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said she favors the prescription drug and health care subsidies that Manchin said he supports, but is skeptical that Manchin will ultimately support them.

“Look, the guy changed his mind” before, Jayapal told reporters. “So let’s see. I have no confidence.

Manchin blew up Biden’s $2 trillion social and economic package last December after it passed the House and after months of talks in which Democrats trimmed it to meet West Virginian demands. During months of talks, he helped force his party to abandon initial plans for an aggregate prize of $3.5 trillion or more and helped coerce Biden to drop proposals for free pre-kindergarten, childcare assistance and paid family and medical leave.

“If there was a guarantee that we could get the biggest contract in September, I’m open to that,” said Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., who chairs the Tax Drafting Ways and Means Committee. . “But to go to the altar, at some point, we have to say, ‘Yes’.”

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Democrats want to reach a deal and get it through Congress before lawmakers go into recess in August.

Delaying action until after the break would leave Democrats facing a dangerous countdown. The special budget powers expire Oct. 1, which would allow them to ram the legislation through the Senate 50-50 over strong GOP opposition with the deciding vote of Vice President Kamala Harris.

This would present a risk that any Democratic absence due to COVID-19 or any other reason would deprive them of the votes they need. It would also push congressional action until just weeks before the November election, when any vote can be quickly turned into damaging campaign attack advertising.

Manchin said he’s worried that higher corporate taxes will lead to layoffs and that some of his party’s environmental proposals will hamper “what this country needs to run the economic engine and the lives of people.” Human being”.

Other Democrats say the broader measure would address a global environmental disaster already underway and help low-income people afford health coverage. They say his initiatives would be fully paid for by making high earners and big corporations pay their fair share of taxes, a popular cause among Democrats.

AP JournalistsFarnoush Amiri, Matthew Daly and Will Weissert contributed to this report.

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